Jeffrey Donaldson on Boris Brexit plan: The UUP is fighting old battles while we’ve got rid of backstop

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is DUP MP for Lagan Valley and the party's chief whip at Westminster. 'Picture by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is DUP MP for Lagan Valley and the party's chief whip at Westminster. 'Picture by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press
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Unionist voters want greater cooperation across unionism.

They want their leaders to work together.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, then Prime Minister Theresa May, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson agree a deal in Downing Street in June 2017. Sir Jeffrey says that while this deal secured things for Northern Ireland, the UUP-Tory Ucunf deal did not. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

DUP leader Arlene Foster, then Prime Minister Theresa May, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Tory chief whip Gavin Williamson agree a deal in Downing Street in June 2017. Sir Jeffrey says that while this deal secured things for Northern Ireland, the UUP-Tory Ucunf deal did not. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA

Lord Empey (see link below) is still fighting battles against the DUP which he lost fifteen years ago. He should deal with his bitterness, focus on the policy rather than the person and move on.

We want the referendum result implemented. We want a sensible deal between the UK and the EU. We have worked with the prime minister to make a reasonable offer. The reaction in Dublin in itself undermines Lord Empey’s scaremongering and defeatism.

This deal removes the threat of the backstop and fully respects our constitutional position within the UK.

Sinn Fein and Dublin know it and that is why they have expressed their opposition to this deal with so much anger.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and complain without offering a single realistic solution. That’s a luxury enjoyed by Lord Empey because of his party’s botched negotiations in the past.

When the UUP were supporting the Conservatives through the UCUNF experiment, what exactly did they achieve for Northern Ireland? Absolutely nothing.

The DUP sought and won the commitment in the PM’s proposals for the prior and ongoing consent of the Executive and the Assembly to any regulatory divergence between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

This is based on Paragraph 50 of the Joint Report of December 2017, which we got inserted and which was agreed between the UK and the EU.

The UK as a whole is leaving the EU single market. Any subsequent regulatory alignment with EU rules can only apply to goods such as agri-food because that is what our farmers and businesses have asked for.

The DUP is absolutely clear that an all-Ireland economic zone, with all goods and services exclusively under EU rules, and the resulting regulatory border in the Irish Sea is not something we would support.

Nor will we support trade barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain and that is why this deal means Northern Ireland will remain firmly within the UK customs arrangements and outside the EU customs union.

There are of course already areas like the Single Electricity Market, where for sound economically beneficial reasons it makes sense for Northern Ireland to have distinct arrangements. Indeed veterinary checks already take place between GB and NI and we have never heard the UUP object to such checks to protect our vital livestock sector.

The prime minister, as indicated in his letter to Donald Tusk, recognised that the previous backstop risked weakening the delicate balance embodied in the Belfast Agreement and undermined the principle of consent. He has already made clear that in all circumstances consent is required from both unionists and nationalists and that of course remains our position.

This is fundamental to democratic accountability and our place in the Union and all unionists should be supporting the Prime Minister in his stance.

• Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is DUP MP for Lagan Valley and the party’s chief whip at Westminster

• Reg Empey on Boris deal: Donaldson doesn’t understand what DUP has agreed

• Jim Allister on Boris deal: DUP have set up Irish economic unity